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jody jaffe
Mar. 9, 2012, 09:59 AM
I realized when I was writing my latest column (link below) that my dream would have never happened were it not for my encouraging and thoughtful trainer, Gordon Reistrup.

Like most riders, I've had both good (Gordon, Peter Foley, Cindy Judkins) and bad (they will go unnamed) trainers. The good can inspire us to reach heights we didn't think we were capable of, the bad can strip away whatever confidence we have.

I'm a teacher. I think I know what makes good ones and bad ones. I'm going to write about this for an upcoming column and I'd love to hear from my fellow riders and include your views. Here are the questions for you:

What makes a good trainer? What makes a bad one? What's the best training experience you've had? And the worst? What do you think a trainer's job is?

You can either post here, or email me: Jodybjaffe@aol.com.

Here's my new column. And thank you to Gordon for making this happen:
http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/small-very-meaningful-triumph-road-recovery

Ghazzu
Mar. 9, 2012, 12:00 PM
Random thoughts from the boarding gate; I'm sure this will be *quite* the minority opinion:

--someone who can take a horse from first saddling to finished (not that it would be SOP for an individual, but IMHO, anyone calling him/herself a "trainer" ought to have done so at least once in their career.)

--someone who can work with a client and horse and bring them to a point where client can take horse to a show, care for, school, and turn in a creditable performance in the ring without the necessity of the trainer's presence.

--someone who has the nerve to tell a client "no" when it is in the best interest of the horse...

fair judy
Mar. 9, 2012, 12:22 PM
for myself,

1) a college degree demonstating a broad life experience (unless you rode with the team:))

2) owns the facility (usually invested in making it work rather than sticking it to the clients and moving to another fertile patch)

3) verbal ability ( you can know how to do it, but can you explain that to me?) .... disqualifier> a trainer who asks "why did you do that?" and doesn't really want an answer.

4) good manners

5) a broad based resume'


not in any particular order.....

bits619
Mar. 9, 2012, 12:26 PM
I don't really know where to begin without writing way too much but to me a good trainer: *has a sense of the bio-mechanics of both horses and riders and how one affects the other. I think this can be learned, but some good trainers just have a natural feel and understanding.
*is flexible in training approaches to suit different riders and horses. I don't think a trainer must be able to teach children and adults, but being able to switch gears like that is a talent.
*can/does tailor their program to help the varying goals of their students. By this I don't think an A circuit trainer has to teach up-down lessons to 8 year olds, but rather a good trainer recognizes that the goals of a boarder with a made horse will be different than the goals of a boarder with a prospect, or horse (or rider!) coming back from injury.
*furthers his or her education as well. Whether the trainer is one who rides, competes, or is no longer riding a good trainer is interested in attending clinics or symposia of the respected members of their disciplines. I also think a good trainer, perhaps a great one, is one who can answer why they do train a certain way... Even better, they can answer why they disagree with other training philosophies or approaches- and what they would do instead. This may have more to do with communication skills, but if the trainer is also teaching people in addition to the horses, i think it's important.

Hope that helps!

Lucassb
Mar. 9, 2012, 12:33 PM
For me, I guess it comes down to a simple concept. I define a good trainer as someone who demonstrates true respect for both the horses and riders in their charge.

There are many ways that that respect is manifested in a good trainer's program:

The trainer has educated themselves sufficiently to effectively install/improve the skills of both horse and rider - and to know if/when they are simply not a good fit for either or both

They have acquired the necessary knowledge about feeding, conditioning, and managing the horses in their care to achieve the optimum level of fitness and prevention of injury (mental or physical)

They surround themselves with other knowledgeable professionals - vets, farriers, etc - to ensure that every horse in their charge is provided with the best care possible and they coordinate that care appropriately, with the best interests of the horse always foremost

They have sufficient self esteem to reach out to other professionals to help solve difficult problems, create opportunities for clients (and horses) that for whatever reason are not a fit for their own program, and they maintain an attitude of lifelong learning and a willingness to freely share both their knowledge and their passion for the sport

I'd also say that the really good trainers also love what they do, and inspire others accordingly

see u at x
Mar. 9, 2012, 12:37 PM
What Ghazzu and Lucassb said is a good start.

My personal experience is:

1. Someone who actually shows interest in me and my horse, and cares about our progress, no matter what level we happen to be riding at.

2. Someone who isn't "just about the money." I had an instructor one time who freaked out because I didn't give her 24 hours notice to cancel my lesson because my horse ended up with a major injury that same morning as the lesson. I no longer took lessons with her after that because she cared more about her money/time than she did about whether or not my horse was going to be OK.

3. Someone with a lot of patience who doesn't mind repeating things sometimes, because there are days when I need that constant reminder. After all, I'm trying to retrain my body and muscles to be correct, which isn't always easy! I have a lifetime of bad habits I'm trying to fix.

4. Someone who is watchful, but who doesn't coddle and babysit me. They must be able to know how far to push me without overfacing me or my horse. This also includes those wonderful trainers who believe that their students should be solid on the flat before being allowed to ride over fences.

5. Someone who is capable of explaining things in a way that I can relate to.

6. Someone who can explain to me WHY I'm doing things if I'm not sure, but who will also test me and ask things like, "What are you feeling right now?", "Do you think he's using himself correctly? Why or why not?", and "Why do you think that downward transition wasn't as good as it could have been?" I want to learn how to think for myself.

7. Someone who can help me to effectively teach me and my horse confidence and to help bring out the trust we have in each other.

8. Someone who doesn't scream at me or berate me.

Wonders12
Mar. 9, 2012, 12:44 PM
As a lesson student who doesn't have my own horse:

1) Treating every student with respect/like they're important. I've been to too many barns where the trainer has their top showing riders and every other rider just goes around in a lesson and does the same thing and gets the same feedback because it seems they're not worth the trainer's energy.

2) Listening to the client's goals. It's important that a trainer recognize what the owner/rider wants to (or their horse to) accomplish and tailor the work towards that. Maybe SuzyQ trail rider loves jumping cross rails but has no desire to jump bigger, then it's the trainer's responsibility to create lessons that challenge and improve the horse and rider without trying to make them 4' jumpers.

3) Explaining things multiple ways and understanding different learning styles. If I don't understand it, then my trainer needs to find a better way to explain (or show me) it. I like explaining how I'm going to do something better because it helps cement it in my mind, but other people just want to be told then go do it. Everyone learns differently.

4) Teaching good horsemanship. I cannot stand a trainer who allows riders to be mean to their horses. That is not how you train and that is not how you ride. Every client, from walk trotter to A show super star should be expected to handle every horse fairly and appropriately.

5) Reward. I pay my trainer to make me better, so expect a lot of criticism from her. That's good. But I also need to hear when I've done it right and I appreciate some extra enthusiasm when I've done it really right!

6) Understanding basic sports psychology. I don't mean they need a degree in this, but they do need to understand and have a respect for the effects of stress on riders (and horses). Then, they need to go out of their way to learn how each client handles stress and what that client needs in the moment to help them have a good ride.

7) They obviously need to be a good horse trainer as well. But most of the above points can be directly applied to how they train horses: The trainer should focus on each horse in training, they should understand what the end goal is for that horse to accomplish, they should be able to "explain" new things to each horse differently, they should (and expect their clients to) treat all horses well, they should reward their horses, and they should understand the effects of stress on their horses. Really, we (humans and horses) all learn the same way. :D

Trevelyan96
Mar. 9, 2012, 12:46 PM
Qualities of a good trainer:

1. They have have sufficient knowledge and experience to evaulate both a horse and a rider's strengths and weaknesses and know how to bring out the best in both.
2. They have to be able to communicate both the mechanics and the concepts to their students.
3. They need to be calm and supportive, and able to see just when and how far to push their students and horses.
4. They have to command enough respect to ask for and receive obedience from both students and horses without creating fear or anxiety in either.
5. They have to create enough knowledge and confidence in their students to give them the ability them to work correctly on their own.

Luckily for me, I have this trainer!

Go Fish
Mar. 9, 2012, 12:46 PM
Work ethic, talent and honesty.

I'm an owner/client that doesn't need a lot of babying, hand-holding and being frequently told how wonderful I am. So I don't really care if a trainer's got the personality of Genghis Khan. I'd probably get along just fine with George Morris. :lol:

ponymom64
Mar. 9, 2012, 12:47 PM
For me, I guess it comes down to a simple concept. I define a good trainer as someone who demonstrates true respect for both the horses and riders in their charge.

There are many ways that that respect is manifested in a good trainer's program:

The trainer has educated themselves sufficiently to effectively install/improve the skills of both horse and rider - and to know if/when they are simply not a good fit for either or both

They have acquired the necessary knowledge about feeding, conditioning, and managing the horses in their care to achieve the optimum level of fitness and prevention of injury (mental or physical)

They surround themselves with other knowledgeable professionals - vets, farriers, etc - to ensure that every horse in their charge is provided with the best care possible and they coordinate that care appropriately, with the best interests of the horse always foremost

They have sufficient self esteem to reach out to other professionals to help solve difficult problems, create opportunities for clients (and horses) that for whatever reason are not a fit for their own program, and they maintain an attitude of lifelong learning and a willingness to freely share both their knowledge and their passion for the sport

I'd also say that the really good trainers also love what they do, and inspire others accordingly

This.

Plus the ability to transfer this knowledge to their students in such a way that the student can take it and run it. Also, instill confidence in their students to be able to learn (over time) how to solve their own problems and be able to sort out which training techniques work best for any animal they happen to be sitting on at the moment. In addition, teach them how to be independent - whether that be the ability to prep your horse yourself for the ring or manage to learn the course and ride a course should said trainer be busy with another customer.

PS. We were also lucky enough to have all of these attributes in our trainer :yes:

AboutThat80
Mar. 9, 2012, 12:55 PM
I don't post often, but I'm compelled to get into this discussion. There have already been a ton of great points thus far, but there's one attribute that is an absolute must for me...

A GOOD trainer, in my definition, MUST seek the help of another rider/trainer/coach/instructor (even infrequently) as a part of her OWN personal growth as a rider/trainer/coach/instructor.

To me, the willingness of a trainer to further her OWN education shows me that she fully understands that we NEVER stop learning and can always use eyes on the ground as riders and teachers. It also shows me a bit of humility, the acceptance that no one is perfect, and hopefully guards against a trainer with a "there is no one better than me" attitude. :)

The Olympians do it, A circuit people do it, so a trainer I pick should do it too.

fair judy
Mar. 9, 2012, 12:56 PM
i forgot to add: someone who doesn't use three paragraphs of descriptive mumbo jumbo to convey a simple concept. give me a task which will be a teaching experience, rather and talk me to death.:lol:

BeeHoney
Mar. 9, 2012, 01:27 PM
I think a good trainer most importantly has exercises and practice strategies to develop and improve the horse and rider. If riding were as simple as a good explanation of how it should be done, we'd all be fabulous!

backinthesaddle
Mar. 9, 2012, 01:34 PM
A good trainer is someone who can prepare me to step into a show ring at the appropriate level without having to be at the in-gate every single time.

Donkerbruin
Mar. 9, 2012, 01:41 PM
The number one thing on my mind is someone who can talk the talk AND walk the walk. I see trainers who can't ride for anything telling clients what to do on horseback.

arena run
Mar. 9, 2012, 01:47 PM
A good trainer is someone who can meet whatever need you have at the time. One person's good trainer isn't necessarily someone else's definition of "good". Your good trainer this year isn't necessarily what you'll need in five years. If they are meeting your showing/riding needs, and you're happy w/the direction your riding is going, then they are a good trainer for you.

A bad trainer is someone who doesn't care about you, your needs, or your horse. Now, that doesn't mean that a bad trainer is someone who is hard on you or someone who makes you wish that maybe you'd taken up kayaking. <lol> If that's what you need to be your best, then they are being, for you and where you are at the moment, a good trainer. The "bad" comes in where they don't have your best riding interest at heart - instead it would be their pocket book or their own climb to the top.

imho

2DogsFarm
Mar. 9, 2012, 01:55 PM
Best:
Gone these 10 years now (RIP, George) taught me things that I still use today
His advice to a student agonizing over which of her 2 horses to sell:
"Keep the one that's fun to ride"

Worst:
The BN from Meredith Manor who taught a clinic where we all rode schoolies.
His first comment:
"So, these are not your show horses?"

Why no, and thank you for pointing that out...Asshat :mad:

Rel6
Mar. 9, 2012, 02:01 PM
After three years of horror stories with my former instructor, my main criteria is this: sanity.

A good trainer is going to tell me exactly what I am doing wrong. I don't need anything sugar-coated, but I also do not to be yelled at, berated, or embarrassed. Clarity is a great thing too. There are some extremely knowledgeable people out there who can't convey that knowledge to a student in an understandable manner. You might know exactly what I'm doing wrong and what I should be doing, but if you can't communicate that to me in a way I'm going to understand its just not going to help.

OneGrayPony
Mar. 9, 2012, 02:29 PM
I think it depends on the individual.

1. I need someone who is going to explain explain explain. I'm a global learner, I need to understand context. It sucks being this way, but a trainer that just tells me what to do without explaining why this is different on this particular horse in this particular situation is NOT going to work for me. It's not how my brain works, nor my brain-body connection. Yelling "put your right hand down" 400 times will NOT make it stick. Wish it did...my life would have been much easier.

2. I do need a trainer who will work with me and my goals.

I am not a passive owner. I know how to give my own shots, clean my own sheaths, wrap my own wounds and ride my horse through his temper tantrums (most of the time).

I don't want training rides unless I'm really stuck and can't get something to work and even then I want to be right there watching.

At the same time, I harbor no illusions that I'll ever be in the Grand Prix ring or even anything serious any more. I'm past that age, and don't have that kind of moolah. I'm a serious rider who doesn't give two hoots about competition. I ride because I love it and because I love to progress with each horse that I've owned.

That doesn't mean I want to *suck*, mind you. I would love to be able to jump that stuff at home...and sure, there's a little dream troll wayyy back in my head that says if I had the right horse and a miracle I could do it. I mostly try to shut her up, because she gets in the way of enjoying the moment.

3. I also need a trainer who is patient.

While I'm mentally very dedicated and serious, I'm an adult ammy who is...older, works more than 40 hours a week as a business owner and who has multiple children. Fitness is a long slow haul for those of us over 30. Consistency is difficult. Sometimes my homework doesn't get done. A trainer needs to understand that I'm doing my very best, and that if I could I would be at the barn every. stinking. minute.

Alas, that's not how my life turned out and since I can't return the children, I didn't marry money and I can't drop the business...well, I guess a trainer is going to have to live with their 4th place status.

4. I don't want to be pampered and perched. I don't need to be told I'm the best. I'm not one of those middle-aged barn biddies. I have a green horse. I do things myself. I've been riding for a long time and though I don't LOOK that good right now, well, it has more to do with old injuries, fears and extra padding creeping up on me than it does my original abilities.

5. They need to believe in me and I need to believe them that that belief means something. I can see through the "You can do it" BS from someone that doesn't believe it. I have one gal who I ride with whose word means the world to me. If she says that I can do it, I believe it (and usually can). I know that she won't lead me astray. It's not often that I trust people like that :D

It is different for everyone. The same trainer that I would have ridden with 20+ years ago would totally not be appropriate for me today. If my goals were different it would totally be a different person.

GingerJumper
Mar. 9, 2012, 03:03 PM
Random thoughts from the boarding gate; I'm sure this will be *quite* the minority opinion:

--someone who can take a horse from first saddling to finished (not that it would be SOP for an individual, but IMHO, anyone calling him/herself a "trainer" ought to have done so at least once in their career.)

--someone who can work with a client and horse and bring them to a point where client can take horse to a show, care for, school, and turn in a creditable performance in the ring without the necessity of the trainer's presence.

--someone who has the nerve to tell a client "no" when it is in the best interest of the horse...

This, plus being easy to get in touch with & deal with.

TiaRosa
Mar. 9, 2012, 04:55 PM
1) Safety, safety, safety.

2) Someone who always puts the horse first; who both models and teaches good horsemanship, not just good riding.

3)Someone with the emotional maturity to deal with situations without temper. No yelling. Ever.

4) Someone who can push the 'tough ones' and coax the 'timid ones', according to each rider's learning and personality style.

5) Someone who can adjust the lesson plan according to what kind of day you and your horse are having.

My trainer does all this and more!

kmwines01
Mar. 9, 2012, 07:30 PM
I love a trainer that will tell me when it's not right and get to the point. At this point, I know I can stick a buck or a tough ride. I need to learn the finesse and the minute details.

Also I need a trainer who can explain it to me and make it visual for me. Give me metaphors or visual images. Also I need to be told when I'm doing it right so I can try and repeat that feeling till its muscle memory. I have to be nagged about my hands, my leg until I get it right and know what right feels like.

Patience and understanding is key. I'm in school and as much as I'd love to live at the barn my schedule doesn't allow it. Between class time, studying, and school activities, boyfriend, I'm stretched thin. I love riding and would be out there ever second if I could buy at this point I can't.

Also , I want a trainer I love to watch ride. It seems silly but I want you to be my inspiration and my role model. I want a trainer that I watch ride and I say wow how did you get that horse to go like that.

copper1
Mar. 10, 2012, 06:42 AM
To me a good trainer is one who has the knowledge and compassion to understand each indivual horse and/or rider to bring out the best in each.
Can adapt to each kind of horse and rider
Can give the correct care of horse and its surroundings
Can translate the knowledge to a student in a way that the student can understand.
Is able to work with what is presented to him, not immediatly insist student needs new horse.
Does not take any shortcut that would compromise the safety and well being of horse and rider.

sp56
Mar. 10, 2012, 05:19 PM
The ability to know what he/she doesn't know and the maturity to direct horse/rider to someone who can help them.

Dedication to continuing education and encourage students to search for answers on their own.

Patience.

Rides (or has ridden) at a few levels above his/her students.

Creates an environment where making mistakes is okay.

Creates a safe environment without taking away fun. Allows students to 'play' with their horses.

Jaideux
Mar. 10, 2012, 10:04 PM
The best trainer for me is somewhat relative to where I am in life. I am a twentysomething still in school (broke and busy).

A good trainer for me is:

Personality:
- Understanding that I am trying my best even when I'm looking like crap.
- Understanding that a walk/trot lesson may be all I have in me at the moment.
- Understanding that I may need to use my lesson as a mounted therapy session instead of a riding lesson
- Laughs
- Has enough perspective to understand that my troubles in life are real, my limitations are real, and just because maybe they made riding 4 hours a day every day a priority, it's okay for me to make other things my priority, and not to judge me for that.

Experience:
- Has experience in a variety of disciplines, even if they are specialized in business, because cross-training and/or pulling in LEGIT things from other disciplines is important to me (don't be teaching me sham dressage)
- Knows "how things work" and can navigate the physical and political environment of a show, or stable if they train somewhere they don't own
- Has experience with a variety of types of people and horses
- Can recognize good and bad, or useful and useless, approaches to fixing something (injury, illness, an "off" way of going, loose poop, etc)

Education:
- Knows enough about vet stuff, tack stuff, training stuff to give me an opinion or suggestion as a starting point before I hire an expensive consultation.
- I prefer a college degree, but that's partially because I am a life long student type, and I work better with people who "get" what school is like and even value it
- Business classes (or at least awareness) enough to have their financial/business sh!t together so they don't go under or suddenly have to triple rates to make ends meet that month

Teaching style:
- Laughs
- Is flexible
- Can approach a problem from more than one angle
- Can verbalize what they see and think to fit my brain
- Is encouraging
- Always wants to push people to do more and step up (start jumping, start showing, start showing rated, etc) but is also accepting when people can't or don't want to. I have no time or money to show, and I'm too out of shape to spend money on someone's opinion of my riding lol, but just knowing that my trainer really wants me to show is a great feeling that keeps me exciting about working with her because one day I *will* have the time and money.
- Is correct (ie worth their salt) and simply teaches the right things with no gimmicks
- Compliments me, and not gratuitously
- Enjoys working on the details (I get more satisfaction jumping a crossrail back and forth until it is perfect than I do jumping a full course of mediocre fences)
- Has SAFETY at the forefront
- Can take me safely and correctly up to about 3', which is probably the highest I will ever want to jump

The je ne sais quois:
- Can SEE that you're riding asymmetrically and can address it
- Can break down the body mechanics (and address) that what the left butt cheek is doing and how it is influencing the right ankle
- Can see lameness or just "off" movement
- Can work me to exhaustion on just a walk/trot lesson
- "Gets" my horse
- "Gets" my relationship with my horse (And I'm not a lovey-dovey fool, but how I am with my horse and how he is with me does not translate to our experiences with "the others")

Whether they own the place or not isn't my exact concern. There are pros and cons to both:

Pros:
- They invest in keeping the place fit for running
- They won't up and leave for greener pastures
- They are easier to find/schedule with
- They see a more holistic view of you and your horse (so not just in lessons)

Cons:
- They have to make ends meet, and they are in charge of everything, so sometimes they cut corners on either end that they wouldn't if they didn't own the place because there aren't checks and balances (ie over working a lesson horse, skimping on feed, not doing repairs, etc)
- To work with them, you may have to board at a facility you wouldn't normally even consider
- Burnout from total responsibility and long days and constantly being around clients


PS: I'm lucky enough to have the perfect trainer right now.

lauriep
Mar. 11, 2012, 10:35 AM
A solid grounding in,belief in, and practice of, the basics of riding, horse care and manners, and insists on same from clients. The horse's well being must ALWAYS come first. What Ghazzu and Lucassb said.

Electrikk
Mar. 12, 2012, 10:49 PM
Someone knowledgeable, but who doesn't think that they know everything there is to know about horses and riding. If someone thinks that, they're delusional :)
Someone who when to push me and when to scale things back.
Patient, but still has expectations.
Someone you can trust-my trainer never lets ANY of her students get on a horse that she hasn't sat on herself, unless she really does know the horse/pony
Someone who knows how to work with all levels of horses-from babies to "made".
Someone who has his/her priorities straight: safety, fun, knowledge, and then competition. Competition is never first.
Someone who respects horse and rider.
Someone who doesn't act like a know it all. Yes, my trainer will most likely know a great deal more about riding and horses than I do, but there's a difference between teaching and acting like you're doing everyone a favor by spreading your knowledge.
Someone who appreciates that all horses have a job/role; from the big fancy a-circut warmbloods to the fuzzy school pony that every kid learns to canter on to the bossy mare who keeps the yearlings' attitudes in check. A horse is a horse, and all types are needed. (plus, just imagine as a little kid trying to learn how to canter on a WEF worthy warmblood...)
Someone with a sense of humor but who doesn't put up with any bull.
Someone I can look up to.
Someone who will call me at 9:00 pm asking if I want to go with her tomorrow to try a horse for another one of her students, and yes, we can stop at IHOP for dinner again.

huntereq1991
Mar. 13, 2012, 01:08 AM
First off- I LOVE this thread! I feel so very lucky to finally have found a trainer that I love.

I think Jaideux hit the nail on the head, for my situation at least!

As a busy (and broke) college student, I need my trainer to realize that I am trying my best even when it looks like I am riding like crap...I might not have slept in over 24 hours because of exams or projects or whatever, but I made it to my lesson and I sure will try my hardest! The little bit of time I get to spend at the barn each week is my small bit of peace. Sometimes, that therapy of just being with the horses is more important than anything that can be taught in a lesson.
Patience is huge for me. Sometimes, I am sure my trainer feels like a broken record. A good sense of humor is also very much needed for all of those "oops" moments.....and some days there are more than I wish to experience!
Communication- I need a trainer who not only understands the concepts but can also translate that knowledge to me in a way that makes sense. I like details, a lot of details! I need to know why things work the way they do. It is crucial that the trainer can adapt to each student's different learning style.
Professionalism and Etiquette- This should be a given, but I have seen it to be greatly lacking in too many trainers.
And last, but definitely not least, the horse always comes first!!! Good Horsemanship should be the foundation of every program.

alterhorse
Mar. 13, 2012, 02:01 AM
HAS AN INTELLECTUAL GRASP OF THE PHYSICS OF BALANCE AND THE PROCESS OF DEVELOPING THE ABILITY FOR BALANCE IN THE RIDER AS THE FOUNDATIONAL REQUIREMENT THAT WILL ALLOW THE RIDING STUDENT TO PROGRESS.

* Can explain to a student why they are having an issue in biomechanical terms by having the ability to see the rider/horse misalignment of balance and the effects that the misalignment has on the bodies of both the horse and the rider.

* Can predict which exercises will be most appropriate for each rider/horse as a team. Exercises that will magnify the root causes of those misalignments of balance. So that the student may FEEL the imbalance and thus LEARN TO FEEL how much more effective they become as riders as they become aware of both their own balance, and the balance of their horse.

* Can creatively adapt the teaching process to best fit each individual students way of learning.